Five startup newbie mistakes to avoid

Updated: Jul 19

The startup process is a challenge for anyone new. It is a skill that takes many practices. Beginners are in the cloud. They keep thinking and their ideas keeps mushrooming - they don't know what to do about them. The top five mistakes are listed below.


Mistake 1: Doing this out of your passion and interest


Many people insists on using your own passion and interest as a guidance. This is laudable but the problem is one must realize dreams must be a business concept for it to be realized. A newbie focuses on the passion, not the business of passion realization. If you do it as a passion, your interests may not last long enough, and it will always remain a hobby.


Mistake 2: Trying to create something brand new


Some people want to make something that does not exist before. This is a rather risky approach. First, something may exist but just you don't know it exist. Second, if someone does not exist, you don't know if it is because:

  • it is hard to market;

  • it can not survive;

  • it is not needed.

After all, if someone has tried before and failed, there won't be an entry about "something that failed". From a business perspective, if something did not exist before it would take long time to educate the customers. The American business man Tudor took 35 ideas before successfully selling Boston winter ice to Cuba. Everything is hard. There is no easy success, ever.


There are two reasons that "new" should be treated with caution.


Tip 1: Introducing new things into ecosystem is an art, not an act

The world is in a state of equilibrium. If something did not exist, it takes a long effort to introduce it and become part of the ecobalance.

The world is not missing a new invention. The people you want to help have one issue, they want to be rich. Most of the time in history, the world needs to be renewed and refreshed, not revolutionized.


Tip 2: Many times something you think is "new" is actually being done by someone


No one has a monopoly of clever ideas. People may think it is new but it is only because they don't know it is already old news. Only when you start doing it will you find the others who are already doing it.


Mistake 3: Trying to solve a problem but don't know the audience or industry


Many people wants to develop a solution (such as APP) and then throw out to the market to see if anyone is interested. This concept has been advocated in books such as Lean Startups and gained a lot of sensible following. This "make it and they may come" and "message in a bottle" marketing approach is not likely to produce business leads or high quality customers, especially one does not have sufficient capital for advertising.

If you make a product for everyone or someone, then you are making it for no one.

Mistake 4: Don't actively investigate and reconnaissance but waiting for approval and investment


It is amazing how many people ask questions about "Hey guys, I have this idea" and then as soon as you type the question into the Google search box, 100 relevant results jumps right out.


When you have an idea, you should immediately assume that competitions exist. There are high competitions (people with high quality and high price) and low competitions (people with low quality and ridiculously low price offer). The presence of these two instantly cut your choice of product in this category to zero.


Always assume there are people as smart as you are, and as hard working as you are.


Mistake 5: Focusing on what you wish to offer not knowing who the audience and competition is.


If you offer a product that is useful, it may not be accepted by the intended audience. People look for effectiveness and magic. If a product solves someone's pain by 45%, from 90% of time to 35% of time, it is not very effective. People want 0% pain. Many products that provide use and usefulness fail to produce effective or unique effects.


Even when you provide an effect, you must also provide a discount. Many times the discount is produced through the sacrifice of the provider, but the buyer still think they are paying a price.

Most people who fall for these errors are students or academic people who spend a lot of time reading but not a lot of time practicing, or experiencing the complexity of business. They tends to understand the full-ness of the world and over estimate the power of sensible intellectual guess or projection.


Newbies tend to think about themselves - their interests, their ideas, their passion, their intent. They don't understand that the world is the center. To successfully come up with a good idea is just to recognize a good idea, not to come up with a Frankenstein idea with no legs.

Startup is to pick the hard road to go. Veterans select banks to break into, whereas newbies selected numbers for entering into the lottery ticket.

Two other mistakes newbies often make:

Mistake 6: Thinking an idea is worth something.

Newbies think of new ideas but does not act. They do a very good job of keeping it a secret. In fact, an idea that can be stolen so easily is not your idea anyways. To keep an idea secret, work on it and put work in it until the efforts needed to steal your idea is so high that most competitors would give up. Doing is the real thinking.


Mistake 7: Worrying about market and marketing after creating the product.

Marketing as a profession is highly developed. Channel specialists are the path finder and guides. Marketing cost is roughly 80% of the sales price of a product. If you sell something at low cost, you will not win the support of the channel and therefore must build your own market (such as Costco and Muji). No one will share the greased market channel with you, out of compassion or anything.


Mistake 8: Start with no helper from insider the market.

The process that a product is producing business is when someone from the market takes you there and introduce you around. The market naturally rejects new entries no matter how great you are. After the market accepts you, the buyer coming to the market still has to accept you and pay you.


Mistake 9: Underestimating the power of existing businesses and brand

If you make a product and find no buyer, but someone can sell anything to their fans. If you think that something does not seem to exist and you can build it, you will find incumbents control the funnel and market that your customers may interact to discover you. A mistake that newbies have is to be a business newbie, and underestimates the fact that existing businesses, no matter what they are, already have trusted relations built.


When I was a newbie, I wish someone had pulled me over and said the following points:

  • idea is nothing, just do it. Built it. Finish building it.

  • the world does not need anything new.

  • if no one build anything and provide any thing new (as in COVID lockdown), the world will be just fine.

  • there are many ideas. Execution any would take a life and open a universe. When you focus, you learn more than anything you ever learned combined.

  • never think in vacuum. Go to market and think. Think about buyer first.

  • when you focus (to buyer niche), the world opens.

  • no one starts a big company. You land on a niche small market that is connected to a big market. You try to survive the longest.

  • no one needs clever things. The world is already in equilibrium.

  • if you don't know how to start, just start. If you want to do something, just drop everything else and do it. Do, no try.

  • any business is hard to create. Veterans fight, newbies struggle.

  • just fail and experience, beyond books and "knowledge". Build knowhow and products.

  • book knowledge is common. Real knowledge is forged into products and relations.

  • life is about relation, business is about relation.

  • making money is easy. Help people who make money make money faster.

  • creating is easy. Help nature create. Don't DIY create.

  • Good judgement is from experience, which mostly comes from bad judgement.

  • Startup just takes preparation, where the best way is to start and fail.

  • drop your statue and ignorance, learn to survive and serve.

  • you get rich through quality and scaling and silo end consumer count.

  • for people to buy something from you, you must over provide like crazy.

  • a person who has started and run a company is very different from a person who has seen a company started and run by someone else.

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